[Somewhat] WEEKLY COLUMN/BLOG PAGE
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
THE TRACK THEY JUST CALL MALLETTS BAY
One of the first tracks I sought to find information about was the track that almost everyone up here in northern Vermont who comes from the older days of racing simply refers to as “Malletts Bay”. The track was one of the more stable tracks in that most unstable of periods – the early 1950’s; and, it played an important role in the formation of NASCAR racing in northern Vermont. It deserves a larger place in racing history than it currently enjoys.
Courtesy of Cho Lee
This early Otter Creek hobby heat shows former Malletts Bay drivers: 2+1 Clarence Rock, Beaver Dragon [white second car], Chet Street [3rd] Ollie Wescott in 12, Jack DuBrul in 1, 5 Jack Anderson, and Red Dooley [last white car].
When I started going to races at the old Otter Creek Speedway in 1961, I was aware that a number of competitors [particularly hobby class] at that struggling new NASCAR track in Hi Monroe’s pasture had run at the Malletts Bay Raceway [or Colchester – Bayview Speedway, as it was last called]. My uncle and I had driven up from Rutland once, in 1958, to view a race that had been vigorously advertised down our way as a Vermont State Championship. With no racing having taken place in our region since 1952, we were starved for racing of any kind during those years. So, we had responded with what amounted to a circuitous two – hour ride from Rutland on secondary and tertiary roads.
Gilbert Family Photo
Lloyd Gilbert’s car sits in the parking lot behind the stands at Malletts Bay. Below – Life on the other side of those stands.
<![endif]>Bushey Family Photo
I was no more than perhaps 11 or 12 at that time and – unlike most other racing I ever went to – I remember very little of that day. I believe one of the problems was that I may have discovered girls recently and there were a number of those creatures in attendance. I do recall that a car with a number something like X-100 had completely run away from the rest of the field. A also vaguely recall an apparent team, with two dark gold and turquoise – colored coupes. The parking was located between the back of the stands and VT Route 127.
I would have to say that, on that day, such drivers as Dick Nephew, Buck Holliday, Jack DuBrul, the Trombley brothers, Bob Bruno, Jackie Peterson, Wayne Chandler, Red Dooley, the Barcomb brothers, the Farnsworth brothers, Gordy Owens. Shorty Carmichael, Ernie Reid, and many more of the regulars must have been there; but no one recalls any of them having an X-100. I can distinctly remember that Keene, NH’s legendary Art Cody stiff – hitched his little yellow flathead Ford coupe up there that day because we followed him most of the way up, winding along on the frustrating US Route 7.
<![endif]> Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
The close proximity of the track to the drive – in is seen here. That 409 possibly came all the way from near Claremont, NH. Below – Track personnel hang out and talk at the Bay.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of Mike Watts
Beyond that, it is difficult to come up with much more from that day. From examination of result sheets and pay reports, it is likely that that race attracted the likes of Roy “Pappy” Forsyth, a Granite Stater driving for Vermont owner George Barber. According to a couple of old hands who like to discuss that track, there was often a guy there with a bizarre car #V2, built to look like a rocket, from which he exited out the rear. Milton insurance man Lloyd Gilbert, then a young storekeeper in the north end of Burlington, ran there with a car numbered 1.59, for the price of his weekly specials.
The Malletts Bay Raceway was owned and usually operated by Walter Barcomb, the lot of which was separated from his family’s lucrative salvage yard only by the Malletts Bay Drive – In theater. Ken Squier began there as the track announcer and, later local television personality Val Carter handled the chores. The track began as a terrible cinder – like surface and ended up paved by 1959 paved. When the track met its demise around 1959, many of its better drivers first set their sights on Ken Squiers flashy new paved quarter mile in Barre, Thunder Road. Drivers like Clarence Rock and his # 2+1 actually won there, against the New Hampshire flathead teams whose light cars had a big advantage. Malletts Bay regular Rex Shattuck was one of the most effective Bay drivers at T Road.
<![endif]> Courtesy of the Bushey Family
Bob Bushey, one of the track’s leading drivers, comes down from the roofless judges’ stand at Malletts Bay Raceway. Later, the stands were higher and the front stretch wall had railroad ties. Below – What was left of those ties in 1977.
<![endif]> Ladabouche Photo
What remained of the railroad ties that Walter Barcomb used to protect his grandstand area. The road was made of those infamous cinders. Below – A look at those ties, at the time the track was in operation.
Courtesy of the Bushey Family, via Jack Anderson
By the time Otter Creek opened up two seasons later with a similar NASCAR franchise, it stood to reason that many of the Malletts Bay teams wound up there. First, many of these guys never liked pavement [even though the Bay was paved in 1958 and 9] and second, most of the teams that went over to T Road had mostly frustration. So, the tow was made, about twenty minutes down Route 7, to Hi Monroe’s pasture. A young teenager from Milton named Beaver Dragon had taken a 1938 Buick coupe #7 to Malletts Bay in the mid ‘50’s, and he ended up at Otter Creek that first season. Joining him were Wayne Chandler and Red Dooley, with their 3Sr and 3Jr team; Rex Shattuck with his trademark red #19; Ollie Wescott and Fireball Notte, driving Ivanhoe Smith junkers; and – one of Otter Creek’s future best – Keith Ballard with his red and white #71, who was sick of being roughed up at Barre by the flathead brigade which outnumbered and resented the old Bay teams.
<![endif]> Courtesy of Cho Lee
Keith Ballard’s 71 on the track at Thunder Road. He did much better at Otter Creek, winning the 1962 track hobby championship. Below – This might in what he was talking about.
<![endif]>Courtesy of Cho Lee
The influence of Malletts Bay apparently extended into the mid 1960’s – when Catamount Stadium opened up under the auspices of NASCAR in 1965. Former drivers like Len Barcomb, Dick Nephew, Charlie Trombley, Jack DuBrul, Beaver Dragon, Jack Anderson, and Jimmy Saltus took up competition at the new, state – of – the – art pavement third mile. Then, too, pit steward Kay Hanson, starter Archie Blackadar, Ollie Wescott, Pat McGrath, and Bucky Barlow were retained as officials. Rex Shattuck both built and drove cars while Wayne Chandler opened a parts truck from his speed shop.
<![endif]> Courtesy of Chris Companion
Former Malletts Bay Raceway driver and Dog River Speedway flagger, Pat McGrath ended up at Catamount in an official capacity for several years [below].
The Colchester, VT township, in which was Malletts Bay, is one of the largest in Vermont. In the early 1950’s, the town had five race tracks, all of which ran at almost the same time. Sunset Speedway and the Malletts bay Speedway came first. The later three, including the Malletts Bay Raceway [Colchester-Bayview] came a little later. Ivanhoe Smith operated Colchester raceway until around 1953; and there was a rustic five – eighths miles track on a sandy plot on the Brigante truck farm. The long trtack was operated by Harvey Moody, an in – law of Brigante; and it had an informal arrangement with Barcomb’s track that whichever track had more cars on a Sunday – the other would close and send its cars to the other. [That was almost always Moody’s Green Mountain Raceway which closed].
<![endif]>Courtesy of Bushey Family
Gordy Owens confers with a mechanic at the Green Mountain track in Colchester.
Nothing is left to be seen of any of the Colchester tracks now. Sunset turned into the Sunset Drive – in; Malletts Bay Speedway is a housing development; Moody’s track was destroyed by development and a sand pit; Colchester Raceway is a housing development; and the most famous of the five was brought down by intrigue. After suffering through years of noise, and tires and cars flying into their establishment, the owners of the Malletts Bay Drive – in managed, somehow, to obtain the race track property by deception and sleight of hand. Within a week, the paved surface was torn up. Today, it, too, is a housing develop, as is the drive – in. You could see the track on aerial views until the end of the 1990’s.
I have walked the property before it became a damned neighborhood and I have two old Kodak Instamatic shots of the old railroad ties that Barcomb used to protect the grandstands along the front stretch. There were cinders in that area, as well; and I am told that the track was once primarily surfaced with that stuff. Shots of the Lloyd Gilbert car, as well as photos from the Bob Bushey family, the Gordy Owens family, Jack Anderson, the Frank Hart family, the Red Dooley family, and some additions of Bob Mackey photos from Mike Watts and John Rock have all given me a much better perspective than I had when I first wrote on this topic in 2005.
<![endif]>Courtesy of the FE Hart Family
A Victory Lane scene at Colchester – Bayview Speedway [Malletts Bay] : Frank Hart, Henry LeClaire, Roy Forsyth, Jackie Peterson, and Ernie Barcomb.
With several detailed conversations with former Vermont State Champion Jackie Peterson, I have some good anecdotal stories of the Colchester tracks and the folks who went there on both sides of the grandstand fences. Lloyd Gilbert and Jack Anderson have added their two cents’ worth, as well. I now realize that Vermont racing legend Vince Quenneville, Sr. had his first race at Malletts Bay with Chet Streeter’s #5, out of Whiting, VT. Legendary announcer Ken Squier tells of driving there, and recently – departed promoter C.J. Richards raced his first race there, as well.
There were tracks all over the state of Vermont in the 1950’s; but the track in Malletts Bay, run by Walter Barcomb, is arguably one of the three most influential and formative tracks of them all. Anyone who was anyone in those days ran there at least at one time or another. Even names from far away like Ernie Gahan and George Janoski ran there at one time or another. The track has graduated champion drivers, top crew chiefs, top NASCAR officials, stunt drivers, car builders, and almost any other sort of racing – related career choice. It is important that we learn all we can about it. I hope anyone who knows information will come forward.+
Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: email@example.com . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
AS ALWAYS, DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE
Return to the Main Page
Return to the Main News Page
Return to the All Links Page
Return to the Weekly Blog Links Page